“Better Nate Than Ever was absolutely terrible for my reading schedule. It totally made me not want to read . . . anything else, that is. Seriously, it's a good thing this was a short audiobook or I would probably still have put off my other books to finish this one. I just kept inventing reasons that I needed to listen to more, tasks to do so I could listen rather than read my print books, which is a good sign.
Why Did I Read This Book?
Well, Better Nate Than Ever was already on my radar, because I do love stories with glbtq themes. However, the wanting turned to needing because my friend MG read it, and said it was completely wondrous. Thus, when I had the chance to get the audio, I went for it the way Nate Foster goes for donuts.
What's the Story Here?
Nate Foster is a kid with big dreams. He's flamboyant, hungry all the time, and possessed of a fantastic best friend who will egg him on to try his hardest in everything. Libby, his bestie, tells him about an audition for the Broadway musical of E.T., and helps him plan a day trip to New York City, so that he can try out for the show. Bad idea bears, right, guys? A thirteen year old off to the city by himself, and it's not like Nate's possessed of a lot of street smarts. Anyway, shenanigans and tomfoolery will be had. Snooty mothers and pompous smirkers will be faced. Hopes and dreams will be attempted with everything Nate's got.
How are the Characters?
Nate and Libby are sympathetic, because they're the outcasts (and because they use flopped Broadway plays as epithets, which is hilarious and clever). However, they're definitely not idealized or anything, because they can be just as mean as the others. Well, okay, not just as mean, but they are pretty judgmental too. Both of them are teased really severely, for being fat and, in Nate's case, for being gay. I liked that Nate is very obviously flawed, but that you cannot help but root for this crazy kid. I cringed for him when he committed egregious errors, and rooted for him to go home without his aspirations smashed into little pieces along the New York City sidewalk. Also, Federle does dive into some larger family issues on top of the overarching comedic plot, which I thought was pretty fantastic, since the tone remains light but serious issues are covered.
And the GLBTQ Themes?
What I love here is that romance really isn't a plot line. In fact, Nate isn't gay. He probably is, based on a couple of hints, but he's still in the questioning stage of life. He hasn't reached a firm decision about who he is yet. Better Nate Than Ever is written in a style that addresses the reader, like Nate has just sat down to enact this whole scenario for you in a one man show, which he would TOTALLY do, and Nate straight out says that he's undecided, because he's just thirteen. I love that, because, sure, some people know right away, but just because he loves musicals and fits the stereotype of a gay guy, that doesn't mean he is. There were also some undercurrents of shame in his thoughts, though, so I hope that if he is gay, he can find strength with himself to see that as the positive thing it is, and not something shameful and secretive. All of his feelings felt very real to him, and conveyed how confused he is overall and not ready for all the romance stuff.
How was the Narration?
Tim Federle was the perfect choice to narrate this. I mean, I do love when authors narrate their own work, because there's something so personal and touching in that. Of course, not every author has a voice for narration, but Federle is fantastic. He does Nate so well, and reads with scads of emotion. Basically, I loved everything about the way he narrated this, and everything about Better Nate Than Ever just made me smile and compulsively keep listening.”